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Full text of "My Country And My People"

THE    ART    OF    LIVING                         319

enthusiastically, while the English eat apologetically* The
Chinese national genius decidedly leans toward the French
in the matter of feeding ourselves.

The danger of not taking food seriously and allowing it to
degenerate into a slipshod business may be studied in the
English national life. If they had known any taste for food
their language would reveal it. The English language does not
provide a word for cuisine: they call it just "cooking." They
have no proper word for chef; they just call him a cook. They
do not speak about their menu, but know only what are called
"dishes." And they have no word for gourmet: they just call
him "Greedy Gut" in their nursery rhymes. The truth is,
the English do not admit that they have a stomach. No
stomach is fit for conversation unless it happens to be "sick9*
or "aching." The result is that while the Frenchman will
talk about the cuisine of his chef with—what seems to the English
mind—immodest gestures, the Englishman can hardly venture
to talk about the "food" of his "cook" without impairing the
beauty of his language. When hard pressed by his French
host he might be willing to mutter between his teeth that "that
pudding is awfully good" and there let the matter rest. Now
if a pudding is good it is good for some definite reasons, and
about these problems the Englishman does not bother himself.
All the English are interested in is how to strengthen themselves
against influenza, as with Bovril, and save the doctor's bills.

Now you cannot develop a national culinary art unless you
are willing to discuss it and exchange your opinions on it The
first condition of learning how to eat is to talk about it Only
in a society wherein people of culture and refinement inquire
after their cooks9 health, instead of talking about the weather,
can the art of cuisine be developed. No food is really enjoyed
unless it is keenly anticipated, discussed, eaten and then com-
mented upon* Preachers should not be afraid to condemn a
bad steak from their pulpits and scholars should write essays
on the culinary art as the Chinese scholars do. Long before
we have any special food, we think about it, rotate it in our
minds, anticipate it as a secret pleasure to be shared with
some of our dosest friends, and write notes about it in our in-
vitation letters, like the following: "My nephew has just brought